For the purposes of this research, a mobility device (MD) is defined as mechanical equipment on which a person sits or lays prone or supine in order to move from one location to another. Such equipment is typically a wheeled device propelled manually or by electric motors. It is personal property that must remain with the person throughout the day. Mobility devices include wheelchairs, scooters, and Segways.
Regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) implementing the transportation provisions of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines a “common wheelchair” as being no more than 30” wide and 48” long, measured from 2” above the ground. In addition to transporting persons using common wheelchairs, the ADA requires transit operators to provide lifts and ramps that are able to accommodate 600 pounds, although transit agencies can choose to provide service for larger wheelchairs with lifts and ramps that accommodate more than 600 pounds. However, some mobility devices may not fit into the layout constraints of paratransit vehicles and buses. Travelers using wheelchairs and scooters can face a serious problem when trying to board a transit vehicle if their mobility device does not fall into the common wheelchair envelope of 48” long, 30’’ wide; a problem in both rural and urban areas. It appears that new mobility device models on the market increasingly exceed the dimensions of a common wheelchair. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that persons using a mobility device on transit systems may not be aware of the physical limitations of transit vehicles, especially those persons who are not frequent travelers or use a scooter only occasionally. Field reports indicate that the results can be unpleasant for both the passenger and transit operator. The dimension problem is compounded by the lack of designated, safe attachment points on mobility devices. This, combined with the increased weight beyond the design parameters of common securement systems, can lead to attaching securement devices at points which are not safe or structurally sound to protect the passenger, especially those on scooters. Research is needed to better understand the extent of the problem. This issue can affect all those using a mobility device not just those who are defined under ADA as disabled. This area of research involves a wide variety of stakeholders including, but not limited to, transit agencies, transit users, funding agencies, and manufacturers (of vehicle lifts/ramps, transit vehicles, securement systems, mobility devices, and fare collection systems).
The objectives of this research were to (1) identify and assess the current and emerging issues which limit the use of mobility devices in paratransit vehicles and buses and (2) develop guidance and options to assist transit systems, manufacturers, and transit users in the implementation of accessible design and accommodation solutions for the short and long term. This research addressed potential safety improvements and the level of service of public transport for larger and heavier occupied mobility devices in paratransit vehicles and buses.
STATUS: The research was published in August 2014 as TCRP Report 171, Use of Mobility Devices on Paratransit Vehicles and Buses.
TCRP Report 171, Use of Mobility Devices on Paratransit Vehicles and Buses, is available for download from the TRB website. The report includes a guidance document to assist transit systems, manufacturers, and transit users in the implementation of potential accessible design and accommodation solutions for the short and long term.